When you're making your first game and doing the graphic design yourself, watch out for these common pitfalls of typography. Click the image below for full-size description of nine different legibility problems and what you can do to avoid them. This image is released under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons License.
I've been developing Arf! internally for a while and have finally polished up some of the rough edges with outside playtesting. I always knew this would be one of the simpler games in its final form, but there's this inevitable step of development where I make it way too complicated before scaling it back to essentials.
This is particularly important for a game with such light, approachable art. I didn't scale back Nine Lives quite enough during its development, which has led it to being a slightly less approachable game than it could be. I didn't want to fall into the same trap with these pups.
So first, a recap of gameplay.
Theme: You're volunteers at a three-day adoption fair, competing to adopt out puppies to the best homes. You're sort of a matchmaker, presenting several clients to picky puppies who have particular needs.
Cards: Each card is multipurpose. If a card is in your hand, you only pay attention to the information at the top of the card. These are the food, love, and space your client is offering to a puppy. If a card is in the central tableau, then it's a puppy who is demanding whatever is noted at the bottom of the card. For example...
Gameplay: On your turn, you can adopt, then either draw or offer.
- Draw: Every player takes a random card from the top of the deck. You get one extra.
- Offer: Make a set of cards from your hand and take a puppy from the central lane. Keep this puppy and this set in front of you. Refresh the lane with a new puppy from the deck.
- Counter-Offering: In future turns, players may make offers to puppies who are in front of another player. If stealing from another player, you must have a stronger offer. You then take that puppy and put it in front of you along with your set. The player you stole from puts their set back into their hand.
- Adopting: If you begin your turn with a puppy in front of you, add the puppy to your portfolio and discard your set.
When the deck runs out on Day 3 or there are not enough cards in the deck for everyone to get their full share of cards, the game is over. The active player completes their turn, anyone who has puppies in front of them adopts them out.
Notes and Changes:
My main mistake was trying to shoehorn the triple-triangle deck idea into a game this simple. You may recall this here:
It's too clever by half, unfortunately. It had too many numbers to track and made some sets way too high in their sums. I'm simplifying the deck into three suits (Love, Space, Food), each ranked 1-5 three times. This way, there is only one digit to track on the card and I can make the puppy-demands a bit simpler. I have some options for set collection mechanisms in the endgame.
- Most puppies of a particular digit: Score that digit as points.
- Most puppies of a suit: Score 1 per puppy.
- Most puppies of a particular breed: Score 1/3/9
- Most odd numbered puppies?
- Most even numbered puppies?
Here's a peculiar spin on triangle decks from James Ernest's Pairs and Great Dalmuti. I think I've talked about this before in another form, but as a mix of suits and ranks. When it's just numbers, I find it fascinating that all the cards divide up 19 in different ways. When two numbers are high, the third is low. The most balanced cards get are 6 6 7.
What would you do with this deck?
Hey all, just wanted to give you a head's up that a second edition of Suspense will be coming next week as a part of the DriveThruCards Halloween promotion. Can you believe it's been a year since Suspense first came out?
What's new in the second edition:
- Slightly different card size: euro poker instead of US poker.
- I've also updated the rules cards to follow the standard formatting of my more recent games.
- This includes rules for 4-6 players, which you can see a preview of below.
VARIANT: 4-6 Players
Setup: While setting up a round, shuffle cards from an extra deck of Suspense cards depending on the number of players.
4: Black 1 and 6. Red 1 and 6.
5: Black 1, 2, 5, and 6. Red 1, 2, 5, and 6.
6: Black 1–6. Red 1–6.
END OF ROUND: The sum of numbers in play that triggers the end of the round depends on the number of players.
SCORING: If multiple players win a round, all score points noted on their winning cards.
END OF GAME: Continue playing rounds until each player has been the dealer once. The player with the most points wins.
Aside from that, it's the same game you've enjoyed the past year. Hope you dig it!
Sometimes a little mechanism gets a hold of my brain and I can't shake it unless I write it down. This time it's inspired by Ninja Taisen's linear board and Foxmind's lovely abstract Linja. Presently it's more of a system for solitaire puzzles, but I think there is some potential for two-player interaction.
The theme is that you're a herd of goats trying to get across a mountain. If you get at least three over the top, you win.
You have a set of numbered cards representing the size of each goat. Begin with them Big goats are stronger and can help their smaller brethren, but their bulk also makes them less nimble on the steep cliffs.
Step 1: Take a card from the inside space of any level and move it down to the bottom level on the outermost space.
Step 2: You have a number of moves equal to the goat you just sent to the bottom of the mountain. You can move any other cards in any order that many spaces up the mountain. Remaining goats on a level move inwards as innermost spaces are vacated.
And that's pretty much it! Very simple little puzzle but with some interesting choices for solo play. I'd like to expand on the idea by making goats have synergistic effects when they are on the same level, including on an opponent's goat.
Alas, I'll have to set this idea aside for the foreseeable future until I get a spare minute in my schedule. Still, a fun idea. Get your goat!
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to play at a dedicated game night for Japanese games, but I was recovering from some nasty con crud and had an 8-hour drive ahead of me the following morning. Probably for the best health of my friends that I didn't attend... I guess.
It seems I missed out on some great light abstracts. Thankfully Eric Martin has been posting video reviews! No substitute for actual play, but at least covers the basics.
Each of these games strikes my curiosity for their unique mechanics and effective use of cards as primary gameplay components. They may use oddly shaped cards or add a die to the mix, but overall these are mainly card-driven games.
Edo Yashiki has a cool scoring mechanism for its "advanced" mode. You can score A, B, C, or D on your turn, but once you've done so you can't score it again until the others have scored first. For example, if you scored for Apples this turn, you couldn't score Apples again until you've scored Bananas, Pears, and Oranges. This is effectively similar to Reiner Knizia's set-scoring, but incorporates it more directly and seamlessly into decision space.
Colors of Kasane taps into the set-collection schemes that I've been pondering the past few months. In the game, players draft cards into their hand from a central tableau and must keep their hand of cards in the order they were drafted. Once you have a viable set, you score points and discard those cards. The sets are things like "all odds" or "all evens" or "straight three," and so on. I'm a sucker for any game that has minimum level of information on the cards but maximizes their possible synergies. This is the game I'm most looking forward to owning.
Ninja Taisen is a really cool abstract that effectively uses a linear "board" with just one line of spaces. Players roll dice to get 1-3 moves in which they move one of their ranked and suited cards up the track towards their opponent's end of the line. The interaction of those cards-as-pieces is really well-thought out and gives me hope for more two-player abstracts in my own catalog. Though the game is themed around rival ninja clans invading each other's territory, it seems more like a clever fencing game where the duelists are constrained to the piste.
Onitama is probably the least card-focused game in this list, but still a worthwhile lesson in randomized replayability. The game is basically a pure abstract, right down to a gridded board with identical wooden pawns moved by each player in turns. The real hook of the game is that your possible movements are governed by cards in your hand. Each player has two cards and a fifth card to the side of the board. On your turn, you choose one card to play, move a pawn in the manner indicated. You then put your played card to the side of the board and pick up the other side card into your hand. Thus each player has different possible moves each turn, but they are very easy to remember each game.
For more, check out this Twitter thread where I experiment with Ninja Taisen's mechanisms rethemed as a solo climbing game.
Labels: game design
Tom Vasel of Dice Tower reviewed Belle of the Ball!
So, how does Tom and his gang of gamers react to the theme, art, and general feel of this fancy schmancy card game? Oh dear. Watch and find out.
Spoiler: It was actually a very fair review. In the first minute I was prepared for lots of negative comments, but in the end it ended up pretty balanced. Tom's been in the business long enough to know whether or not a game is aimed at the hobby strategy market and evaluates Belle of the Ball accordingly.
I must say it's a surreal experience seeing the game I've worked on so long finally making the rounds of tabletop media. Between Wil Wheaton's very positive comments, Secret Cabal's very negative response, I'm kinda getting whiplash. Best to just keep an even keel and see how the game sells in the long term. If the market's responding, that's what pays the rent. :)
JonGetsExcited is a brand new board game vlogger that is really good at energetically talking about board games in a single take. I can't tell you how hard that is to do. No ums, no vocal tics, it's so impressive. Of course I may be biased because he's so enthusiastic about Koi Pond and DriveThruCards. Check it out!
Christine Gertz from the University of Alberta's Career Centre interviewed me recently about how I use Google Helpouts for my business. It's a short conversation covering a lot of ground including education, time management, picking your first project, and the advantages of video conferencing vs. asynchronous communication.
For the past year or so, I've offered 30min consultation sessions for $15. So far the reviews have been great and I'm eager to do it more often.
Here's a link to further reading compiled by Christine, including my recorded Helpout sessions with Jaren Maddock.
I've got two big pieces of news for Suspense fans and fans-to-be!
or "Ambush" is the Portuguese language edition of Suspense, just signed to Funbox Jogos. They're the fine publishers who also just picked up Light Rail! In the rethemed game, players are trying to deduce the secret weakness of a hidden medieval army.
Suspense: Second Edition
For production reasons, I'm resizing the standard size poker cards of Suspense to Euro poker size (2.48" x 3.4"). Looking back over those old production files, I realize how many improvements I've figured out in presenting rules and gameplay on cards. So I'm taking this opportunity to rebrand Suspense with a new edition. The game is mostly the same, I'm just making the rules easier to understand and cards easier to read. Hope you dig it. :)
Each month I share my sales numbers from DriveThruCards, hopefully giving you some perspective if you pursue this POD self-publishing model.
Notable business events this month include the inaugural tiltEXPO, my first time boothing solo at a convention and pitching my POD games in person. You can read more about that here. I handed out a lot of business cards and a few discount codes. Hard to say how many sales came out of that push, but at least I planted some seeds of awareness around Durham.
Unfortunately I couldn't nurture that in subsequent weeks because I came down with a double-dose of Con Crud from tiltEXPO and SPX the following weekend. Three weeks of coughing and sneezing really knocked out my promotion and production cycle. One new release, limited buzz, and no huge promotional discounts all contributed to a dip in sales for September.
2x Bird Bucks -4
18x Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game -16
5x Koi Pond: Four Walls (Promo Card 2) -10
4x Koi Pond: Four Winds (Promo Card 1) -12
8x Koi Pond: Moon Temple -16
26x Light Rail -39
12x Monsoon Market -27
5x Nine Lives Card Game +1
2x Penny Farthing Catapult -1
2x Regime -11
18x Solar Senate New!
4x Suspense: the Card Game -14
2x Ten Pen -1
108 Total Sold
$1,012.30 Gross Sales
Grand Totals for 2014 (to date)
1564 Products Sold
$8,809.34 Gross Sales
So yeah, lots of dips, but a peak can't exist without a rise before and a dip after. You can waste a lot of time and treasure trying to raise the peaks when you should be raising the troughs. So, I'm trying to keep perspective:
September sales and earnings are higher than the whole first half of the year. In fact, they nearly match July, which I was crowing about back then. On top of that, I see tweets every day lately from people who are just getting or playing their copies of Monsoon Market, Koi Pond, Light Rail or any one of my other games. In fact, Light Rail continues to be my surprising strongest seller in the lineup!
This is a pretty strong base to launch the last quarter of 2014 and conclude this year-long project. I'm optimistic!